Having discovered that I won’t be able to write about the Mass Effect 3 demo release due to a delay on the European release of the demo I decided to talk about the character that has become the second most talked about theme of Mass Effect in the past week.
Friday saw the release of the first ever official Female Commander Shepard trailer. This is after scores of fans had campaigned to Bioware, asking them to use ‘FemShep’ as she is fondly called in their marketing for the first game. Officially, Bioware declared that only about 18% of all gamers play as the female protagonist voiced by Jennifer Hale (though I still believe those statistics are wrong) and probably felt that it wasn’t worth spending any effort into her marketing campaign. This all changed in June 2011 when Bioware’s David Silverman announced that they will focus some of the marketing material on FemShep. It wasn’t going to be a 50/50 split between BroShep and FemShep, but it was something, something we had not had with the previous two games. FemShep was going to get her own trailer (of the cinematic kind) and was going to appear on the Collector’s Edition box art.
What followed was a fan frenzy. FemShep fans everywhere started expecting the trailer around every corner and most of us were convinced that it was going to be released at the Spike Video Game awards in December 2011. It wasn’t and in hind sight, I think it was for the best because it gave Bioware a chance to market the product away from the hype of the Video Game Awards. They set this date for the 10th of February, announcing on the 9th that the trailer will be released and those in the twitter-verse could use the hashtag #femshepfriday to talk about it. To show their support, most fans changed their avatar to this:
The way the fans came together was amazing. By the end of the day, #femshepfriday was tweeting in both Canada and the United States and #femshep trended around the world. I was fortunate enough to be online during the time it did and all I can say was that I felt my heart burst with pride when I saw that this had made it all the way to South Africa and further.
The thing was, for me – it wasn’t about giving acknowledgement to the female protagonist. It was about the woman behind the voice, Jennifer Hale. She had done an amazing job ad was nominated for Best Voice Actress in a Game for the SPIKE VGA awards 2010. And, what Bioware lost track of (in my opinion) when they decided way back in the beginning not to market FemShep, was that she had put in just as much hours and work into the game as Mark Meer. I had played FemShep on my first play through and when I tried to go over to BroShep, voiced by Mark Meer, I found myself… Unsatisfied. This is not about who’s the better voice actor, please – let’s not get started on that trend. It’s about what’s right for me, as an individual gamer. We all have different tastes and I realized quickly that BroShep wasn’t right for me and it was wonderful that there was a character who was. And, you see – in this lies the magic of Mass Effect.
You can choose. You choose your fate, you choose your friends, you choose your character. Where ever you find yourself in the game is absolutely due to the choices that you made. The amazing thing is that they give you a bunch of squad mates, but they don’t really force you to work with them. There are benchwarmers and there are those that you take out with every mission. And, who you take is up to you. It’s brilliant and it lets you tailor the experience for your own enjoyment. I think it’s one of the reasons why fans can get so worked up about the series and when they talk about it. We all have our own story that has been growing in our minds. Our own history and experiences. None of us play the game in quite the same way.
It’s therefore amazing that the fans could get together on the 10th of February and celebrate their love for the game. I’ll be interested to see what the play percentage of BroShep vs FemShep will be for this game and whether exposure to the public will give our female protagonist the lime light.
For myself, I know that I’ll only ever play FemShep. I mean, wouldn’t you want this woman by your side when the world threatens to end?
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Mass Effect 3 will be released on the 3rd of March in America and the 9th of March in Europe and the rest of the world. (whohooo!)